Wednesday, February 23, 2005
Look Ma, No Hands!
When Los Angeles is getting three times as much rain as Seattle, something is wrong. Even this parched semi-arid hellscape cut off from the sea by cruel mountains that I call home has more than doubled Seattle's rainfall totals thus far this year.

I mean, look at this:

Palm trees and funnel clouds. Everyone knows palm trees go with hurricanes, not tornadoes. And that's just on islands out in the middle of nowhere that TV stations here only cover because they're between the approaching hurricane and Florida. Or if there are any Americans on the island, that's big news. If the natives get killed, well, that's what they get for living in Hurricane Alley, innit? Besides, most of them don't even speak English or drink Coke.

Yesterday the Bucket covered the rain-related issue of mudslides and boulders falling into people's houses and killing their children. Today we cover something that is actually important, especially in California: driving.

Everybody drives. This is the part of the world that is absolutely allergic to public transportation. Buses are for the dirty scummy poor and college students. Trains are for killing yourself when stabbing yourself in the chest and slitting your wrists doesn't work. According to official government figures, there are 17 bazillion miles of paved streets and highways in southern California. Believe it or not, we need more. All of them are clogged with traffic. We don't carpool. We don't walk. We don't bike. We are Californians. We drive.

Well, not exactly. We sit in our cars and go from A to B at high rates of speed (when not stopped in traffic), but generally we're doing something else other than driving already. The radio needs tuning, the cell phone needs answering, food is being eaten, kids need beating and the newspaper, well, it's not going to read itself now, is it?

With all the rain this year, I've learned something very important: not only does water occasionally fall right out of the sky, but when it does, it will eventually hit the street. It's really basic gravity in action, but you wouldn't believe how many people out here are surprised by this natural miracle of meteorological physics. It's almost enough to make most of them let incoming calls ring through to voicemail. Almost.

Water on the ground in and of itself would present enough of an obstacle for me as a driver to make me consider hiding my keys from myself (oh, I could do it), crawl into bed and pull the covers over my head. Being totally honest, I consider the bed-and-covers option nearly every day anyway regardless of weather. My wife calls it "lazy bastard mode". I call it "energy efficient"; I'm conserving for when something comes up that I want or need to do, like walk downstairs so I can lay on the couch and watch English Premier League soccer on the big TV. It's important, I think, to have priorities.

What was I talking about? Oh yeah, driving. So it rains and the ground is wet. This is less than optimal, but still, this is not my primary problem driving in the rain. My problem is my windshield wiper settings.

Back in the misty dark past of my early driving days, the fancy cars had four windshield wiper settings: off, intermittent, regular and friction-burn. You might know the last one as "really fast", but in California I don't think it's ever rained hard enough long enough to use the "really fast" setting, so mostly it's just a fun setting if you like watching rubber windshield wipers smoke against glass.

The kick-ass chick-magnet minivan that I drive, however, has eight different intermediate sub-settings between "off" and "regular". They range from virtually-off (one wipe per every... God, I'm not even sure. It feels like an hour) to indistinguishable-from-the-regular-setting at the high end. Should I explain that one in more detail or is it more or less self-explanatory?

Whatever the thinking was behind such a technological marvel, for the chronically indecisive this is a potentially fatal distraction while driving in the rain. My primary goal now is not arriving safely at my destination, it's matching my windshield-wiper rate exactly to the rate of rainfall. Stoplights, other cars, trees, gutters, pedestrians, I can't be bothered. If the wipers go too fast, the windshield gets all streaky. If they go too slow, I can't see through the accumulated water. I am physically incapable of doing anything else if I don't have my wiper setting just right.

I understand the inclusion of separate environmental controls for backseat passengers, 10 cup-holders in a 7 seat vehicle, even the drop-down DVD LCD screen, but this... there's a point where convenience and customizability are simply in contradiction with common sense. I have enough decisions to make while driving--should I wear my glasses or drive for a while in exciting Blurry Vision again?--without having to consider the lifespan of my wiper-blades at second-by-second intervals.

So my appeal goes out to two all-knowing, all-powerful forces in American life.

1) God, please stop the rain. We agreed to persecute the gays in the last election, remember? Don't we get any credit for that? I know we didn't vote for it ourselves out here, but we'll totally go along with it in exchange for a string of good hair days. Enough with the damp already. Please.

2) To the Ford Motor Company: stop fixing shit. You put the Mustang back the way it was finally after 40 years of dicking around with the design. That is good. Learn from that. Put back the three-speed windshield wiper settings. I can barely concentrate on my GameBoy Advance while driving as it is.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 7.9


At least you still manage to multi-task while you're driving out there in CA. Here in MO, everyone would rather come to a full and complete stop and then speed up again to a raging 4 mph before slamming on their brakes and skidding to a stop again only two feet away from their original starting point. Rain, snow, high winds, it doesn't matter.
Look Ma, even the tornados are moving out of Kansas.....
Oh look! I wrote something about the same subject and, I'm just praying Cali doesn't separate and turns into an island with this rain. I'm getting sick of it too, there are huge holes on the roads!
Jess: Not everyone realizes this, but we are born driving usually. Mom squeezes us out while she's behind the wheel and then, since we're down there on the floorboards anyway, she asks us to "take the pedals". It's just like when the baby horsies walk right after birth.

Brent: You need more mountains to keep things in.

Yoli: The holes in the road are the first signs of separation. Next will come the earthquakes and then the fire-breathing giant lizard out of the depths of the ocean.

Not sure what the lizard has to do with it, but that's what was in the movie I saw about this very topic.
You're right. My car, a chick-deterrent Honda, has six intermittent positions in addition to the regular speed settings. The highest intermittent setting actually changes intermittency, varying with vehicle speed. This naturally makes me experiment with vehicle speed while driving in the rain, to hell with what's in front of me at the time.
Ha. We have tornados in Wisconsin! We have something that California has! So there. We are not pathetic.

Also, I don't drive. I don't exactly know where that fit in, but I don't.
I fucking hope the rain stops too so that I can stop hearing about you Hollywood types bitching about the rain. I do find it humorous that you are concerned about driving in the rain. Really anyone that lives in California should have to live in a Midwestern state for six months to truly appreciate what weather can do to your life.
Larry: Are you 100% sure your vehicle is not in fact afflicted with some kind of voodoo curse or, alternately, demon-possessed?

K: But we have no snow at sea level, so we still win.

MPH: Yes, but you see, that's the whole entire point of living in California: being able to laugh at Midwesterners, not to mention Northeasterners, Southerners and Pacific Northwesterners and their silly, silly weather plight and ridiculously affordable costs of living. This is all wrong and highly upsetting. You'd agree if you knew how much I had to overpay for this house.
Pops, as your official technical expert and guide to the blogosphere, this post is too long. I read the first two paragraphs, and then I scrolled down to see how long reading the rest would take, and realized I've written shorter essays for classes than this post. So I stopped reading. I therefore must add to the charge of violating Blog Statute #1: Don't use the Ugly Blah Template on Blogger, the charge of violating Blog Statute #3: Don't write anything longer than Rita's term papers, especially not about the weather.
Wait -- is that right? Rita's the official expert? I need to speak with her.
Rita: You know I respect your opinion as my Official Guide, but I think we're going to have to agree to disagree here. I mean, sure, it's really really long and it's about the weather, but come on. It's all about bringing the funny.

Let's re-read it, shall we? Making fun of Florida, that's always funny... ooh, and foreigners... heh... oh, those crazy Californians who drive without looking! What an image!... ha ha... I-am-lazy jokes, those are always good... four paragraphs on windshield wipers (yes, OK, you may have a point there)... but oh, the Blurry Vision thing, that was clever... and ha, God = Ford... priceless. Just priceless.

I don't know about you, but my sides ache. I think I'll go have a lie-down.

Larry: No no, don't ask! No eye contact, no sudden moves. Try to make yourself look bigger than you are and whatever you do, don't turn your back and run. Just back away, slowly.
Today is Thursday. Has it stopped raining yet?
Oh just let us silly little californians have our weather pity party--I mean, this is truly weird for us, OK? I couldn't believe it when I saw that tornado warning on the local news. Armageddon might really be near...
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